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Science & Technology

Nobel prize in chemistry awarded for method to visualise biomolecules

Wednesday 04/October/2017 - 12:57 PM
Sada El Balad
Edited by: Yara Sameh

The Nobel prize in chemistry has been awarded to three scientists for developing a technique to produce images of the molecules of life frozen in time، the guardian reported.

Jacques Dubochet، Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson will receive equal shares of the 9m Swedish kronor (£825،000) prize، which was announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on Wednesday.

The technique they developed، called cryo-electron microscopy، has allowed the structure of biomolecules to be studied in high-resolution for the first time، an advance that revolutionised the field of biochemistry.

Before the breakthrough، electron microscopes were only suitable for imaging dead matter، because the powerful electron beam destroyed biological material. Henderson، a Scottish scientist and professor at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology، succeeded in using one of these microscopes to generate the first three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution.

Joachim Frank، a German-born professor at Colombia University in New York، made the technology more generally applicable. Dubochet، who is Swiss and an honorary professor at the University of Lausanne، refined a vitrification technique that allowed biomolecules to be rapidly frozen while retaining their natural shape.

The resultant imaging technique has allowed scientists to explore the architecture of everything from the proteins that cause antibiotic resistance to the surface of the Zika virus. And by capturing snapshots of the same system at different time-points، scientists can stitch together jittery film sequences of biological processes as they unfold.

This has paved the way for both new basic insights into life’s chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals.

Last year’s prize went to three European chemists for developing “nano-machines”، an advance that paved the way for the world’s first smart materials.

On Monday، three American scientists shared the 2017 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for their painstaking work on circadian rhythms and the Nobel prize in chemistry went to another American trio for the first observation of gravitational waves.

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